United States: Native Americans banned from protesting pipeline on own land


Protesters target the Bakken pipeline.

Despite ongoing resistance by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, a North Dakota federal court has ordered the indigenous group to stop their blockade protests against a US$3.8 billion oil pipeline.

“The tribe is committed to doing all it can to make sure the demonstrations … are done in the right way,” said Dave Archambault II, chairperson of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. “As we have said from the beginning, demonstrations regarding Dakota Access must be peaceful.”

On August 15, protesters arrived at the site and surrounded the machinery at the work site, prompting an instruction to the workers to leave their equipment. That day, the pipeline developer, Dakota Access, filed a lawsuit against the protesters, citing that worker and law enforcement safety was at risk.

The Bakken pipeline, as it is known, is almost as long as a previously proposed mammoth pipeline, Keystone XL. It will cut through all of North and South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.

As it is owned by a subsidiary of Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, the line will carry about 570,000 barrels of sweet crude oil every day — fracked from North Dakota's oil-rich Bakken Formation — all the way to Patoka, Illinois.

The project will run through wildlife areas, sacred Native American sites, and water sources such as the Mississippi and the Missouri — some of the longest rivers on the continent. Critics say the pipeline poses a major threat to ecosystems. Federal agencies, however, argue the Bakken avoids “critical habitat” and is safe.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have countered with their own lawsuit against the developer to challenge their permits to build the pipeline.

“The pipeline presents a threat to our land, our sacred sites, our water and to the people,” said Archambault. “Our basic message is that the Corps of Engineers has failed to follow the law and has failed to consider the impacts of the pipeline on Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.”

Law officials started detaining people two days after the protest began, including Archambault, who has been charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing.

Then, on August 19, North Dakota issued an emergency declaration in a bid to stop the protests. Meanwhile, the Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota will file formal complaints for obstructing free movement.

Governor Jack Dalrymple authorized the executive order Friday evening due to “significant public safety concern,” following a statement by the Morton County sheriff that the protests are “unlawful” and that some occupiers are rumored to be armed.

The protesters, who come from several tribes and environmental groups, insist their actions are peaceful and are meant to target the project, not law enforcement. Media speculation about any violence, they said, is unsubstantiated. The pipeline's developer already won a restraining order against the protesters earlier this week.

The emergency declaration would let Dalrymple request additional funding for law enforcement but would not involve the National Guard, according to KFYR TV. The county has already deployed highway patrol, police and private security and is expected to deploy more this weekend.

The Oglala Lakota Nation will file their complaint with the Department of Justice and the UN Commission of Human Rights after they said that members were stopped from leaving their reservation on suspicion that they would attend the protests, reported the Bismarck Tribune.

“The Strong Heart Warrior Society condemns these traffic checkpoints and any interference of the rights of way of Lakota persons from traveling across their traditional lands for any purpose. South Dakota is Lakota territory under natural law, international law and treaty law. The state of South Dakota and the United States government are in violation of these legal covenants and mass stops of Native persons is criminalization without due process, racial profiling and illegal. These stops must end now,“ said Strong Heart Warrior Society spokesman Canupa Gluha.

Construction was halted after protesters blocked a major highway, but the project has already been approved—illegally, say the Lakota and Yankton Sioux tribes—and is expected to resume construction after officials restrategize on how to “be able to get control of the situation,” said the sheriff.

The pipeline, which would cross four states, a major river and aquifer and sacred ceremonial and burial grounds, has been compared to the Keystone XL Pipeline for its potentially disastrous environmental effects.

[Compiled from TeleSUR English.]

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